Dough is a cake-like substance, composed primarily of flour with sugar, water and fat (oil or butter). The word dough has been traced to Old English “doh”, which in turn came from the verb “dougan” meaning “to do” or “to knead”.
The texture of dough ranges from firm to pliable, elastic, and sticky. Doughs may be made from wheat flour, rye flour, rice flour, maize (corn) meal, potato starch, urd dal flour etc. Different ingredients create different textures: for instance bread dough consistency is rougher than pastry dough consistency.
Leavened bread dough contains yeast and has a light, airy and soft texture (it should not be sticky). The natural sugars in the yeast produce alcohols that leaven the dough by producing carbon dioxide. The gluten strands align to allow this gas to escape during baking. Yeast-free doughs are called “no knead” or “cold rise” doughs.
They are prepared by mixing the dough and letting it rest for a period of time. This process, called “autolysation”, increases flavour.
Egg brioche dough includes butter and is rich in egg yolks. This enriched dough has a more delicate texture than the traditional bread dough. Brioche dough is firmer than bread dough because the rich texture makes it less elastic.
The addition of sugars and fats, egg yolks or butter tenderizes the brioche dough. Brioche dough can be used for traditional brioche as well as other sweet and savory dishes. Brioche dough can be used for sweet or savory dishes.
Biscuit dough is made from a short pastry method, that produces a dough with larger amounts of fat and less flour than cake batter. Biscuits are leavened by mechanical means (an initial mixing stage followed by rolling in between sheets of baking paper). The addition of baking powder is sufficient to lift biscuits, but they are not as light as leavened doughs.
Biscuit dough can be made from sweet or savory ingredients (milk, cheese, meat, vegetable etc.).
Gluten Free Dough
Gluten free dough is made of starches, gums (like xanthan gum) and eggs. The addition of egg gives the gluten free dough a more elastic texture than normal baker’s dough.
Gluten free doughs are made without any bread-making or rising agents, and hence do not have the open texture of bread.
Pastry dough is made from butter, water and flour that are worked together until well combined. It contains no yeast or chemical leavening agents and usually has a short shelf life because of the lack of preservatives. Pastry dough can be used for making meat pies, tarts and dessert pie crusts as well as sweet pies.
Fresh pasta dough contains eggs to help it hold a ribbon-like shape and is made from plain flour, eggs, water and salt (optional). Pasta dough must be rolled out with a flat rolling pin over a board. The pasta can then be cut or hooked into the desired shape.
Pasta is cooked in boiling water until al dente (firm to the bite). Starch-based doughs do not need to be cooked as long. Fresh pasta is best eaten the same day it is made. It can be frozen but if frozen should be used within 2 months.
Yeast dough is made from flour, water and yeast. When left to rise for a period of time (autolysation), the dough rises and develops carbon dioxide gas bubbles which cause the texture to be open or airy. The addition of sugar and/or fat in bread dough reduces the elasticity of gluten strands so that when baking, the bread absorbs less water and has a better texture.
Yeast dough is used for making cakes (sweet or savory), pizza dough, flatbreads and bagels.
Leavened dough is prepared by mixing flour, water and a leavening agent. The leavening agent (e.g. yeast or chemical agents) cause the dough to rise with gases that develop during fermentation. Leavened dough is used for breads, pastries, cookies etc.
Unleavened doughs are made by mixing flour and water, fermenting the mixture for a while and then baking it. Leavened dough is best known from its main ingredient- yeast. There are quite a few types of unleavened dough though, and all have their advantages over leavened ones:
Convenience: making unleavened dough is very quick and easy, all you need to do is mix flour and water together. You can make it in any quantity that you like. Leavened dough needs time for the yeast to ferment which means that in large quantities it may take a few hours or longer.
Some pizza dough recipes use a mixture of bread and cake flours while others use whole wheat flour. The addition of baking powder is sufficient to lift the pizza, but they are not as light as leavened doughs. Pizza dough can be used for sweet or savory dishes. Vegetables, meat, cheese and seafood can be added to pizza dough.
Yeast Free Dough
Yeast free dough does not require yeast or any leavening agents. It is made from flour, water and salt. Yeast free doughs are used for flatbreads (e.g., chapati), noodles (e.g., udon) and pancakes (e.g., crepes).
No Knead Dough
In “no knead” doughs, the dough is prepared by mixing flour and water. The dough rests for a period of time to let the ingredients absorb moisture and form gluten, which makes the texture more elastic than normal baker’s dough. These types of dough can be made with any kind of flour (e.g. wholemeal wheat flour, bread flour or cake flour), and can be used to prepare various types of breads (e.g. sourdough).
Sourdough is made from flour and water that have been inoculated with bacteria or wild yeasts. The fermentation process creates carbon dioxide gas which causes the dough to rise. Sourdough can be used for breads, cakes, pastries etc.
In traditional sourdough fermentation, a “starter” (a mixture of flour and water) is left to sour at room temperature for about 3 days. The starter can be refreshed by adding more flour and water and allowing it to stand again.
Rich doughs are made by mixing flour, water and other ingredients (e.g., fat, sugar). Depending on the type of dough desired, liquid or solid fats may be added to rich doughs. These doughs produce flaky layers in pies and pastries when baked.
Rich doughs are used for making biscuits, pastries, pies and crumbles.
This dough contains equal amounts of flour and butter or shortening. Small pieces of butter are worked into the flour, followed by addition of water in small amounts. Short dough is used for pastry like pies, pasties and tarts as well as to make biscuits such as scones, cookies etc.
Short crust pastry is similar to short dough. Short crust is the basis of classic English pies and tarts. It can also be used for pasties, quiches, puffs etc.
Pie dough is made by mixing flour, water and fat (e.g. butter or shortening). It can be made with any kind of flour but contains more fat than other types of doughs (60-75%). The addition of fat in pie dough makes it tender and flaky when cooked. Pie dough is used for pies, tarts and quiches.
Pie crust recipes differ in the ingredients used and proportions of flour, water and fat. Flaky pie dough usually contains some type of fat (e.g. shortening) which does not melt when baked as butter would, but forms layers instead because it is solid at room temperature.
Pate brisee is a very short crust pastry that contains equal amounts of flour and fat. The dough is mixed to form a ball (similar to short bread) before being rolled out into thin sheets. Pate brisee is used for pies, tarts and quiches.
It is also used for making pithiviers, an ornate French dessert.
Pate sucree contains sugar, flour and butter. This pastry is also known as sweet short crust pastry. It can be used to make pies, tarts or quiches.
Pate Sucree is baked on the bottom and sides of pie or pastry cases. The top crust may be either flaky or made from pate sucree. A quiche can be made by lining a deep dish with this pastry and filling it with egg, minced meat, grated onion, herbs and seasoning. Cover with a lid and bake. In western cuisine, pate sucree is used more often than puff pastry in the preparation of savoury dishes.
Croissant dough consists of a yeast based dough that is rolled out and folded multiple times (like puff pastry). The rolling and folding process stretches the dough to form layers. This pastry is made with wheat flour and margarine or butter. Croissants are commonly eaten for breakfast filled with jam, cheese or meat.
Phyllo Dough (Filo)
Phyllo dough (also spelled Filo) is made with flour, water and fat. The dough is pressed to form sheets which are layered or stacked to form a pastry sheet. Phyllo does not contain many layers but it can be used for making baklava type pastries. Like puff/flaky pastry, phyllo does not contain any yeast and is made from a laminated dough.
Phyllo pastry sheets are folded to form pockets or layers in pies (e.g. spanakopita). The filling can be cheese, sweet or meat based and the pastry is often brushed with butter before baking for added flavour and crispness.
Phyllo dough can be used wrapped around meat, cheese or vegetables to form a pie (e.g. spanakopita). The filling is brushed with butter and cooked until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Phyllo sheets are also layered with sugar syrup, nuts and soaked in honey for making baklava-like pastries.
Kourou is a kind of pastry filled with cheese, meat or vegetables. This dough contains milk and egg for added flavour and colour. The pastry can be sweet or savory depending on the ingredients used to fill it. Kourou is made using puff pastry sheets (e.g. phyllo/filo).
How do I prepare dough for baking?
If you are preparing homemade dough, refer to our recipe for cheddar cheese bread below:
For a hand-made bread or pastry, divide the liquid into two and stir in half of it until the flour is moistened. Then add the rest of the liquid only if needed while stirring. When mixed, knead well until elastic and soft, adding flour if necessary.
To make a yeast-based dough, let the mixture rest for 10 minutes then knead well until elastic and soft, adding flour if necessary. For a bread machine recipe, follow the instructions of your machine’s user manual.
After mixing, cover the dough and let rest for a short period of time. This allows the flour particles to absorb air which helps with making breads/pastries light and fluffy.
How do I measure ingredients?
All measurements should be level unless otherwise stated in recipes. Do not pack or scoop ingredients but fill the measuring cups accurately. For example, when measuring flour, scoop and loosen it then level off the top with a flat edged tool like a butter knife or metal spatula. To measure sticky ingredients (such as honey), spray the measuring cup with cooking oil before filling.
I am not sure what kind of bread/pastry to make. Please help me!
If you are a beginner then look for recipes that start with the word “easy” and are made from ingredients with easy-to-find names. Avoid recipes that require exotic/uncommon ingredients until you master pastry making in general.
How do I handle yeast dough?
Yeast dough takes longer to rise than other kinds of dough. Check for readiness with a gentle poke; the dough will not bounce back but leave an indentation. To save time, use a bread machine to knead and rise yeast-based doughs.
Since yeast-based dough rises faster and more consistently, use that for preparing pizza bases or the like.
Baking temperatures also affect how fast yeast doughs rise. For example, if you want to bake naturally leavened bread/pastries on a low temperature then check out chef John’s recipe here .
If you are using instant dry yeast (IDY) then you will not need to wait for the dough to rise. It rises quickly because it is pre-dissolved in water and yeast-based baking powders are dry. All that is needed is mixing, kneading and baking directly.
Do I have to use bread flour or all-purpose flour for making bread/pastries?
Bread flour and all-purpose (APF) flours are made from gluten-rich wheat flour with a high protein content. This makes it possible to create breads/pastries that rise very well without being heavy or dense. To make your own APF, mix plain flour with the same volume of cake flour.
It is possible to make bread and pastries from plain flour but it might not rise properly. This happens because the gluten content in APF-flour is higher than that of plain flour which provides a stronger elastic network for trapping air bubbles. In addition, APFs have a lower water absorption capability (about 12%) compared to plain flours (about 18%).
Dough is used to bake pizzas, calzones, pies and bread. There are different types of dough which depend on the method of preparation. Some types include yeast dough, shortening dough and unleavened dough. Different recipes may use all or one of these types in the same recipe. The ingredients that you use depend on the type of dough you are making.